Paul Fenn

Rush Towards the Ball, Rush Towards Life

DSC01068So last night, my son Will had a baseball game, he turns 11 next Monday, April 29th. This year he moved up from the Minors to the Majors and is now playing with 11 and 12 year olds. Most, if not all of these kids, have been playing baseball for several years and at this point are pretty good. In fact, I was surprised at just how much more intense the level of play was with this older group compared to last year’s younger group. Gone are the days of teaching the kids how to throw, catch and bat and teaching them the love of the game. Now it’s all about how to play well and win games. If a kid isn’t qualified to play first base then he plays some other position, like left field or maybe third base. Will is not a first basemen but he has a decent arm and is fairly good at getting his glove on the ball so he often plays second or third base or sometimes shortstop, occasionally he’ll also play in the outfield.

Will is also a decent batter. He doesn’t have a lot of power but his accuracy is pretty good and when he connects, he usually manages to get the ball over the heads of the infielders and out to the outfield. His real talent however is as a base-runner. Will is fast and willing to take risks which makes him the ideal player when it comes to stealing bases. And, since Will loves to be on stage and the center of attention, stealing bases to great applause is right down his alley!

DSC01064A team is only as good as the coach and this year the coach is especially good. For one thing, he’s especially good at being in charge and giving the boys clear direction of how to do things or how to do things better the next time around. He has a knack for using just the right amount of sarcasm to make his point without going so far as to embarrass the kids. For example, “Billy, don’t you think you would have a better chance of stopping that ground ball if you put your glove down?” “Yea” says Billy in a not-so-sure voice. “Well get it down then, glove in the dirt, glove in the dirt” he’ll shout. Or, “You know, we’d have a much better chance of winning if you guys would actually catch the ball instead of letting it hit the ground!” My favorite however was directed at Will on the first day of practice when he said, “Hey Will, is that a batting stance you have there or are you planning to take a dump on home plate?” All of us parents standing along the baselines that day got a real kick out of that one, especially me!

So the game is underway and our team, the Philly’s, are playing pretty well. Will’s first time to bat results in a walk,  From there he goes on to steal second and third base and then steals home. As I said, Will loves to be the center of attention and there simply is no better way to do this in baseball than hitting a home run or stealing home plate so Will is now in his glory with lots of yelling and screaming and back slapping from his teammates.

Sometime in the 5th inning, a kid from the opposing team knocked the ball out of the infield but well in front of the guys playing in the outfield. The coach was immediately on his feet shouting “don’t just stand there, rush towards the ball, rush towards the ball.” I started thinking about this statement, which was really more of a command, and it struck a chord with me. “Rush towards the ball” I repeated to myself “rush towards the ball.” 

As a marketing guy trying to push high-priced yachts in a tough economy, this concept of rushing towards the ball or in my world, rushing towards the customer or the market, makes complete sense. In a tough market such as we have had for the past few years, the only effective way I could see to possibly win the game was to tune up my advertising, marketing and sales program and run full steam ahead towards the market with the enthusiasm and the attitude that screams, “we’re your guys, buy from us.”

Rushing towards the market, especially a slow one, is not always easy or instinctive. In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite. One reason for this is that it’s not always clear how to reach the market or more difficult still, what it will take to capture the market. Another reason is that to capture the market and catch the customer, means spending precious resources which you either don’t have in the first place or are unwilling to spend in the second place, especially when there’s no guarantee that you’ll be successful. And lastly, it’s always easier and safer to stay put and let the market come back to you rather than for you to venture out into the field to get it. Unfortunately, the problem with playing it safe is that by doing nothing, you run the risk that your competition might be going with a more aggressive game plan and taking your customers and the market.

It’s not always clear what course to take but history has shown time and time again that those companies that turn up the heat during slow times always come out ahead when better times return. In other words, those companies that rush towards the ball do better than those companies that don’t. For me, the time to rush forward and discover what lies ahead is now.

By the way, during the last inning of the game, Will managed to get a solid hit that was good enough for a stand-up double. One of his teammates got on base with a single and while he was doing that, Will stole third. Another teammate hit a nice fly ball that went deep into center field but unfortunately was picked off by a tall lanky kid on the opposing team. The kid knew what he was doing and immediately threw the ball to the second baseman who managed to tag out the runner coming from first. While the opposing team was busy dealing with the runner at second, Will, who had been leading off third, ran back, tagged the bag and made a beeline for home. All of a sudden there were lots of cries of “he’s going, he’s going, throw it home!” Will dug hard as the second baseman wound up and fired the ball towards home plate. “Slide” the coach yelled, “slide!!” Will did slide, in fact it was pure textbook. That catcher did a fine job and he almost got him but just as the ball was about to hit his glove, Will slid neatly under the catchers arm and got his toe on home plate. “SAFE” the umpire said as he waved his arms over the plate. Again there was lots of screaming and back slapping and “way-to-go” being yelled. The coach just smiled and shook his head. It was a fun moment for sure.

SliderAfter the game, one of the other fathers came up to me with a big smile on his face and said, “Wow, Will sure does like to take risks.”  “Yes he does” I replied; then added, “He always has and I hope he always will.” “Rush towards the ball,” I thought. “Rush towards life.”

On we go…

Unstuck and Underway – The Story Continues

Jeanneau 469 in No Name Harbor, Miami FL.

The tide rose high enough to float the Sun Odyssey 509 off the bottom of No Name Harbor about 2:30am. I am sure about the time because this is when my cell phone rang waking me out of a dead sleep. I was happily stretched out flatter than a corpse in the forward cabin of the 469 when Jeff Jorgensen called to report that they were unstuck and eager to set sail for the Bahamas. I on the other hand was not so eager to go anywhere except back to sleep so my message to Jeff was short and simple, “go to bed, we’ll leave in the morning.” I no sooner hung up the phone when it rang again, it was Jeff. Looking out the port I could see his red port running light staring in at me like some evil-looking prehistoric cyclops. “We’re going” Jeff said. “Fine” I replied, “we’ll meet you there, we’ll be a few hours behind you.” With that said, the bloodshot eye of the 509 drifted away and I happily drifted back to sleep.

It was still dark as Egypt’s night, when my alarm went off at 5:00am. I grudgingly climbed out of the sack and headed aft. I met Erik Stromberg at the foot of the companion-way stairs and with just a few words exchanged between us, we climbed into the cockpit, fired up the engine, hauled the anchor and headed out the channel bound for the Bahamas.

Soon after clearing green flasher #1, we set our sails, killed the engine and headed off in a southerly direction. We settled on a course of about 135 degrees magnetic in order to compensate for the strong currents of the Gulf Stream that would be sweeping us north for the next 50 miles. Life for me is always better after Starbucks and thankfully, Valerie had the good sense to send us off  with some of Starbucks’ instant coffee. While not quite the same as a steaming hot latte, in a pinch it is totally acceptable. So with the help of the generator and the microwave oven, we made ourselves a couple of cups; then along around 6:30 the sun began to rise giving way to a picture-perfect start to the day. Life at that moment was pretty nice!

Sunrise sailing offshore from Miami to Bimini, Bahamas on the Jeanneau 509.

Herb McCormick of Cruising World Magazine appeared on deck sometime around 8:00am. By then the sun was up and so was the breeze. Our speed through the water was an impressive 7 knots but over the bottom, because we were bucking the current, we were only making about 4 knots of real progress. We sailed along like this for a good part of the day but then tacked over and headed off on a more north-easterly course. The wind was of course blowing directly from the direction we wanted to go but with the current of the Gulf Stream now behind us we were making upwards of 10 knots over the bottom in a direction that we more or less wanted to go.

Meanwhile aboard the 509, Jeff and his crew, which included marine photographer Billy Black and all the cute women, were making good time and closing in on making landfall in Cat Cay, a small private island on the western most edge of the Bahamas. I should stop right here and restate that our primary objective for making this trip was first, to give Herb McCormick the opportunity to really put the new Sun Odyssey 469 through its paces and secondly for Billy Black to capture the entire adventure on film, hence the need for cute women!

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After a long day on the water which included several more tacks, we finally reached Cat Cay and rendezvoused with the 509. After clearing in with the Bahamian officials, we treated ourselves to a great dinner with plenty of wine. Afterwards, since we were all pretty toasty from an early start to the day followed by a long day on the water, we actually made the prudent decision and turned in early. I know, we’re in the Bahamas, with a great group of fun-loving people ready to party, and we decide to turn in early… go figure right? OK, well in our defense, we were there to work and the day was to start at 5:30am with a full-on photo shoot. Plus, we had gotten a very early start to the day, plus we had drunk far too much wine at dinner and so there you go… give us a break.

The air was warm with just the slightest hint of a breeze when we left the dock and headed out to catch the sunrise. We anchored the 469 in a small cove surrounded by an outcropping of rocks. Billy went straight to work as the eastern sky began brighten.

Stefanie Gallo onboard the Jeanneau 469 in Bimini, Bahamas

We spent several hours following Billy’s direction. If he told us to jump off the boat, we jumped. If he told us to sip wine and look sophisticated, that’s what we did. When he told us to set sail, we set sail and reached back and forth like we owned the place. It was hard work trying to look relaxed. I can’t remember the exact number but Billy shot thousands of pictures that day.

The original plan if you remember was to spend two nights in the Bahamas. But, we had lost a full day screwing around in Miami trying to get our act together and now our time here was cut short. As I stood on the deck surrounded by turquoise water, I could feel the spirit of the Bahamas pulling me east across the shallow waters of the Bahamas bank and further into the island chain. It would be so easy, just sail east and keep going. Unfortunately, schedules and commitments were already nagging at us to get back to reality so although none of us were ready to leave, we pointed the bows of the 469 and the 509 to the west and began making our way back to Miami.

Sailing onboard the Jeanneau 469 offshore from Bimini, Bahamas to Miami FL.

The low-lying islands of the Bahamas quickly disappeared from view behind us. The sun, low in the sky now, would soon drop below the horizon and it too would be gone.

We had a beautiful sunset and later the moon hung high in the sky behind us lighting up the cockpit as we sailed through the night across the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. For awhile, the two boats sailed along in tandem but somewhere in the night, we lost site of the 509 after Jeff tacked away to the north. We eventually caught up with her again just as we both were approaching the channel leading back to Biscayne Bay and No Name Harbor.

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In the end, what can I say, it was a great trip! We had accomplished all that we had set out to do. We had gotten ourselves to the Bahamas, had a great photo shoot with Billy Black, had gotten Herb McCormick behind the wheel of the new 469 for a real ocean voyage and somewhere along the line, managed to have a heck of a great time; tough to ask for more than that.

On we go….

P.S. For an enjoyable look behind the scenes of more of our adventure and photo shoot, check out this fun video we made: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_VRUg7Ne5E